Speaking of sustainability, what have Coke and Pepsi been up to lately?

Since leaving the Plastics Industry Association because of so-called philosophical disagreements with that organization’s strategies, both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have launched new efforts to solve the problems that the plastics industry apparently has created for them.

Coke and Pepsi logos

In a release sent on September 13, PepsiCo announced accelerated efforts to reduce plastic waste. The two primary means of doing this will be the company’s target to reduce by 35% the use of virgin plastic across its beverage brands by 2025, “driven by increased use of recycled content and alternative packaging."

Reducing the use of virgin plastic content will equate to the elimination of 2.5 million metric tons of cumulative virgin plastic, claims PepsiCo. “Progress will be driven by the company’s increased use of recycled content and alternative packaging materials for its beverage brands, including Lifewtr, Bubly and Aquafina,” said PepsiCo.

In June of this year, PepsiCo announced that starting in 2020 the company will package its Lifewtr brand in 100% recycled PET (rPET). Great! I just hope that the company can find enough rPET to meet demand, given that litterbugs prefer to throw plastic bottles into waterways, onto beaches and land-based environments. People who thoughtlessly discard PET bottles into the environment are not educated about the true value of PET. Maybe PepsiCo can begin a TV and social media ad campaign to inform consumers.

PepsiCo’s Bubly brand will no longer be filled into plastic containers and Aquafina will be introduced in aluminum cans to U.S. food service operators and be tested in retail outlets at the beginning of next year.

Additionally, through the expansion of PepsiCo’s SodaStream business, an estimated 67 billion plastic bottles will be avoided through 2025. “These targets advance PepsiCo’s sustainable packaging vision and reinforce its ‘Beyond the Bottle’ strategy which, in addition to SodaStream, includes the mobile-enabled Hydration Platform and other offerings that deliver beverages without single-use plastic bottles,” said PepsiCo’s announcement.

“While our efforts are far from done, this is one more step in PepsiCo’s journey toward helping to build a world where plastics need never become waste,” said PepsiCo Chairman and CEO, Ramon Laguarta. “Even as we work to accelerate business growth, we continue to make important progress toward a circular economy for packaging, a responsibility we take very seriously.”

Hear that, As You Sow and Greenpeace?

Of course if you eliminate something it can’t become waste. And those are awfully big promises, which some recent articles question that the company can keep. Other consumer brands have made big promises over the past several years but progress has been slow and they’re taking heat from anti-plastics advocacy groups for not sticking to their word.

PepsiCo noted that this latest announcement is in addition to earlier goals announced to make 100% of its packaging recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025, and increase its use of recycled content in plastic packaging to 25%.

Recyclability is an admirable goal. We have the infrastructure in place to collect, sort and recycle PET bottles. All we need to do is educate consumers to put their PET bottles where they can actually be recycled. Just because something is labeled “recyclable” doesn’t mean it will be recycled—that’s up to the consumer.

Image courtesy Ricecracker/flickr.

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